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Repowering ageing onshore wind farms ‘essential to meet climate targets’

If the UK is to secure enough low cost power capacity to meet its carbon emissions targets, new onshore wind turbines will be needed to replace older wind farms – so says a new report: Onshore Wind: The UK’s Next Generation from trade association RenewableUK.

The report warns that more than 8 GW of onshore wind – which currently generates nearly a fifth of the UK’s renewable power output – could be retired over the next two decades, and that new policies are needed to support replacing, or repowering, these older onshore wind farms.

The UK’s first commercial wind farms were developed in the 1990s and built to operate for 20–25 years. The report sets out the case for building new projects with more powerful turbines on existing wind farm sites. Replacing older turbines with more efficient models means that fewer turbines would be installed than those currently operating. The report also advocates other options such as upgrading existing turbines.

Under the report’s ‘optimum’ scenario, 12 GW of replacement onshore wind capacity could be installed, which would help to fill the upcoming ‘energy gap’ by powering nearly 8mn homes and contributing to climate targets. The report calls for government to work with local authorities to bring in supportive policies, including commitments to maintain the current capacity of onshore wind farms in the decades ahead by granting permission for repowering where appropriate.

RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Emma Pinchbeck said: ‘This should be an easy win on climate change that cuts emissions and secures cheap power for consumers. Upgrading our infrastructure with modern onshore turbines is good for consumers, as onshore wind is the cheapest form of new electricity available, and brings investment to communities around the UK.’

And onshore wind is more popular than ever. RenewableUK is highlighting the record level of public support for the technology in the latest opinion poll commissioned by the government on the public’s views on energy and climate change. The latest Public Attitudes Tracker, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, shows that 79% of people support onshore wind, beating the previous record of 76% set in April 2018. The poll also shows that a new high of 80% of the public are concerned about climate change.

Yet onshore wind is currently excluded by the government from competing in auctions for contracts to generate power – the current government mechanism for supporting new renewable generation capacity. 

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